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Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics Paperback – March 31, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Created by the Center for Cartoon Studies' director and two of his former students, this how-to-make-comics book for young readers takes a couple of unusual tacks. For one thing, it skips the usual rudiments of how to draw in favor of explaining the formal characteristics of comics: panels, balloons, lettering and so on. For another, it doubles as a story—about a knight on a quest for a bubblegum–chewing dragon, and the magic elf who teaches the knight all about the joy of cartooning. It's a cute premise, and the art's simple, bold brushstrokes and flat colors are zippy and fun. Sturm and company even sneak in a few comics in-jokes (when several characters fall into water, the elf exclaims I guess this would be called a SPLASH panel!). Unfortunately, the plot and the tutorial material repeatedly stumble over each other: the goofy twists in the story occasionally have a bit of instruction shoehorned in, but more often don't serve any educational purpose—or simply seem like the result of stream-of-consciousness jam cartooning. And kids looking for cartooning guidance may be frustrated to find that the book takes its readers' ability to draw expressively for granted. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Not quite a how-to book, as the cover might suggest, this is rather a stupendous new high for children’s graphic novels, spearheaded by comics maestro Sturm (Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, 2007). Ostensibly, this is the adventure of an eager knight, a sweet-toothed horse, and a magic elf hunting down a gum-chewing dragon, and those reading for the adventure itself will not be disappointed, filled as it is with humor, action, and a great girl-empowering twist. But along the way, lessons in the language of sequential art are woven seamlessly into the narrative, explaining the basics of how elements such as panels and word balloons work, while concluding bonus features offer specifics on terminology (like gutters and stems) and common symbols (like speed lines). Newcomers Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost, using varying page compositions to keep the sizable volume visually captivating, have constructed a tale that works just as well as a read-aloud for the very young as it does a lesson for everyone from fans of the form to the wholly uninitiated. As an examination of the medium, it’s a supremely worthy spiritual legacy to Scott McCloud’s seminal Understanding Comics (1993). As a straight-up graphic adventure, it may be the best of the year. Preschool-Grade 5. --Jesse Karp
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 5
  • Series: Adventures in Cartooning
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596433698
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596433694
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. J. DellAntonia on April 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
It sounds like a how-to--and in its own way, it is--but it's also a really funny, laugh-out-loud story that, on top of being just plain a good read, teaches the basic tropes of graphic novels/cartoons in the cleverest possible way. It would inspire any kid to pick up a pencil (in fact, it worked for me!) It's going to be my go-to birthday gift for sometime to come, along with a pad, pencils and erasers. I just ordered a spare copy and sent one to a friend.
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Format: Paperback
When a princess throws down her pencil and exclaims that she doesn't draw well enough to make comics, the Magic Cartooning Elf comes to her rescue, offering to show her how it's done. He begins by introducing the story of a brave knight who sets out to rescue a beautiful princess from a dragon. A bubblegum-chewing dragon that flies, breathes fire, and drools in its sleep.

But before the brave knight can save the princess from the dragon, he must first establish himself in space, and to do this, he needs to be in a panel. And in the panel, he must move and communicate with the reader through dialog and thought balloons and sound effects, and the layout of each panel must flow in the direction the reader reads. Basic art lessons like these are layered effortlessly into the story and the reader quickly forgets that this is a how-to book. The simple Ed Emberley-type shapes used to create the knight, dragon, elf, and backgrounds are all unintimidating and easily imitated by novice artists.

As the story progresses, the concepts are less frequently explained using dialog. Instead, the techniques are illustrated, showing rather than telling how to create depth and motion via shadow or speed lines. The knight is wearing a helmet, so he has no facial expressions. Therefore, the artist uses body language and expressive symbols to convey emotion, including tilting the head to show laughter or using wavy lines where the knight's legs once were to indicate fear.

Plenty of emphasis is placed on imagination and storytelling. The story is told and the instruction given with plenty of humor that will appeal to kids.
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This book was created by three men who love the idea that anyone can make a graphic book out of doodles. Like all good and true teachers, they make what they do seem easy, and a lot of fun. They show the rules, and then they break the rules.

The book grew out of an assignment given by the author, James Sturm, at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. Sturm was inspired by " Ed Emberly's Drawing Book: Make a World" to start his own cartooning school. If you or your children have ever seen Emberly's books, you already know that Emberly strongly believes that anyone who can draw circles, lines, dots, and polygons can doodle almost anything. In his books, you can find instructions on doodling a camel, vampire, truck, robot, skyscraper, airplane, alligator, alien, etc., all using these simple graphic elements.

However, Adventures in Cartooning is much more than a how-to book. The book contains an ingenious fairy tale-on-its-head, of a knight, a missing princess, a cartoon fairy, a candy-loving horse named Edward, people transformed into vegetables, formidable castle walls, a journey inside a whale, and a fire-breathing dragon. Along the way, the fairy shows how panels can demonstrate action over time, convey scale, organize the order of conversation, show the place and time of the cartoons, demonstrate superpowers (walking over water, on the moon, in the North Pole, inside the whale). He shows how thought bubbles are different from action bubbles (kazam!) from speech bubbles. He also shows how panels can be manipulated to show how tall (e.g. castle wall) or deep (e.g. ocean) the backgrounds are.
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Delightful for kids and adults alike. This book was shared with me by two of my creative writing students on the day our class was doing graphic story work. One of them offered to let me take it home to finish. I did, and liked it so much I ordered my own copy. My four children love it as well.

The book has attractive, effective illustrations and engaging text that makes the book's tips not only fun to read, but also easy to put into practice. For burgeoning or experienced comics, this book is a keeper.
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I like this and daughter loves it. She is 7 and seen this at her school. Wanted it for Christmas ever since. She is an avid reader and loves new information. She is more into reading than drawing but something about this book really impressed her.
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I organize a local group for comic & cartoon creators, and at any given time, I have a handful of related books either in my "wish list" or in "save for later" status in my cart. This was one of the books I was "saving for later" for over a year. I had put it in my cart based on an automated suggestion without even reading the description (I thought the title was descriptive enough).

So I finally decided to purchase it, and when it arrived, I was surprised to see that it was targeted at kids (see what happens when you don't read the description)? Not to worry, though, because it serves as a fantastic inspiration for anyone interested in creating comics, even if they think they're not "good enough". The artwork is very simple and fun, and breaks down any walls of intimidation that more comprehensive instructional books may put up around the reader.

In fact, within the first couple of pages, a princess trying to make a comic declares in frustration, "I just can't draw well enough to make a comic!!!" -- to which the Magic Cartooning Elf replies, "THAT'S NOT TRUE!!!", and in the next pages eases any fear the reader may have about making comics.

I'm organizing a community drawing event this fall, and this book is going to be used quite a bit during that event!

This is a must-have for every parent with creatively-inclined children, or for anyone of any age interested in creating comics.
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